By Sue Botos
Due to passage of the capital improvements bond issue in 2010, new, state-of-the-art locker rooms have been built at Rocky River High School, and improvements to the gym and pool areas are on the schedule. But there is one group of student-athletes still making do with subpar facilities.
A group of Pirates hockey parents and coach Chris Cogan approached the school board at its December committee session with the request that extra locker space be constructed at Hamilton Ice Arena to accommodate the high school team, which now shares the locker area with the city youth program.
“Rocky River is a great place to live, and the athletic facilities are top-notch. We’re now looking for a way we can get the hockey facility on par with the other facilities,” parent Dave Mallet told the board.
A legal stumbling block to the addition, projected to cost about $250,000, is the fact the team is affiliated with the schools, but the ice rink is owned by the city. Mallet said his group has addressed the city, and said that they received an enthusiastic response from administrators and Mayor Pam Bobst. However, the city, which is still trying to put the finishing touches on its 2013 budget and is negotiating contracts with police and service workers, was unable to give the group an estimate of how much funding could be put toward the project.
Board member Jay Milano said that he had sought a legal opinion, and that leasing the land from the city could be a possibility. He added that public-private partnerships, similar to those being used for special renovation projects at the high school, are an alternative worth exploring. “The $250,000 is a workable amount through a number of people,” Milano stated. He added, “There should be the same synergy as with the campus project.”
Earlier in the meeting, the board discussed the “campus project” at the high school, which Milano said is aimed at blending areas of the school property, such as entrances and courtyards, into a campuslike environment. These projects kicked off last year with student input, and now a nonprofit group led by Greg Mylett, Dave Furry and Rob Jurs is raising funds for the work. A program is currently under way to sell paving bricks for the school’s main entrance.
The hockey parents pointed out to the board that the current facilities at the ice rink only allowed equipment storage for 10 players out of the 35-man roster. Mallet said that while other schools may occasionally use the rink for practice, the proposed locker area would be solely for Rocky River High School players, who use the facility for practice Monday through Thursday during the season.
“The team is having a lot of success, but there is a definite gap in facilities,” added Mallet, referring to the team’s high caliber of play and challenging opponents. He said that many times, the high school players are using the locker area while youth teams, complete with parents, are present, separated only by a curtain.
Board member Jean Rounds reminded the board that in light of the recent 4.9-mill levy passage, frugality must play a big part in any decision. “We have to tread lightly,” she commented.
“Everyone loves this idea. We need to find the quickest way to do this, and (find) how much private money is out there,” Milano commented, adding, “The idea of public-private partnership is here.”